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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Foster, Harmon unveil new police pursuit policy



ST. PETERSBURG — High-speed pursuits and surveillance cameras topped Wednesday's public safety discussion hosted by Mayor Bill Foster and Police Chief Chuck Harmon.

The chief started the morning by proposing a change in the St. Petersburg Police Department's pursuit policy that gives officers more leeway in chasing burglars along with violent criminals – but could also result in more potentially dangerous chases.

"I don't think the mayor and I are trying to open up Pandora's Box," Harmon said. "This gives the officers a little bit more leeway and keeps safety in mind."

It's a bit of a reversal for Harmon after years of declaring that the current, conservative policy is the best, safest option. But then he did agree to stay on as chief under a mayor who campaigned for a more aggressive policy.

The current policy restricts police to pursuing only those criminals who have committed violent felonies, and only if it doesn't endanger the public.

The new pursuit policy would allow officers to chase anyone who commits a "forcible felony," which would add burglary to that list of crimes.

They still could not chase stolen cars they encounter on the road — which was public safety problem No. 1 in 2009 — but could chase anyone caught breaking into and stealing cars.

Foster also said the city is exploring putting security cameras in crime hot spots.

Read the full story here -- including City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran telling Foster not to pretend to listen to other opinions if his mind is already made up regarding the proposed chase policy.


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:25pm]


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